Cleaning removes soils, stains, grease, debris, marks, rust, dust, lint, cobwebs and odours which can arise, through use or non-use, on surfaces, floors & stairs, windows, fixtures, furnishings, appliances and equipment.
Not only does cleaning remove substances that may harbour microorganisms, it also makes areas much more comfortable and enjoyable to spend time in. This is important in every “out and about” setting.
Cleaning is different to sanitising. Sanitising reduces the numbers of viable microorganisms so that they pose minimal threat to human health. This is especially important where the risk of cross infection needs to be minimised, e.g. in food preparation and handling; in hospitals and clinics; in veterinary practices; for laundering specific items or in specific situations; and in nursing homes. Sanitising is also referred to as disinfecting.
One step further is sterilisation, which means killing all microorganisms or in the object. Sterilisation is required in certain situations in hospitals e.g. for surgical equipment.
Professional cleaning staff, using I&I cleaning products and specialised I&I cleaning equipment, are often responsible for maintaining good levels of hygiene “out and about”.
There are many I&I cleaning and sanitising products. These are designed either for general use or for one of many specific purposes. The wide range of products available means that cleaning and janitorial staff can get the job done efficiently and effectively by using a product that matches the task, leaving the area clean, hygienic and comfortable.
In addition to this extensive range of cleaning products, cleaning tools include brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners and steam cleaners, scrubbers, scourers, rags, dusters, squeegees, sprays and dispensers.
**Special Case – Hospitals**
In hospitals there are many potential pathways for pathogens to enter the human body: open wounds from surgery, catheters into blood vessels and the urinary tract, ventilators inserted through the nose or throat. All of these bypass or compromise the body’s natural defences.
In Australia, hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are the most common complication for hospital patients.
Hand hygiene, cleaning and sanitising are vital measures in preventing HAIs.
Complicating the issue of HAIs has been the emergence of “hospital superbugs” - an issue causing growing concern in recent years. These “superbugs” are strains within a particular species of bacteria that have developed resistance to certain antibiotics or disinfecting agents.
Resistant strains can arise when a bacterial population is not completely killed by an antibacterial agent. Survivors possess some resistance to the antibacterial agent and are able to pass on this resistance as their genes are replicated in the next generation. Once a “superbug” enters the human body it can be very hard to treat.
In hospitals it is important to use a disinfectant product that is effective against the microorganism, and to use it correctly. For example, alcohol-based disinfectants do not kill C. difficile spores, rather a bleach solution must be used. And resistant strains could develop if insufficient product is used, or the cleaning solution is too dilute, or the cleaning method is not thorough enough.
I&I cleaners and sanitisers are indispensable in minimising HAIs in hospitals and other health care facilities.